women

Shine Theory: If you shine, I shine!

Shine Theory is a term coined by Ann Friedman who wrote about it for New York Magazine. I listen to her podcast, Call Your Girlfriend (she co-hosts with her bestie Aminatou Sow and I love them both) and after hearing them talk about it I googled the term and read her article. I liked it a lot. I also read an interview of Jam Wilson for Styleite where the discusses Shine Theory and what she makes of it. Instead of Friedman’s “If you don’t shine, I don’t shine” she modified it to “If you shine, I shine” and I actually like that better.

It’s a well established talking point that women are taught that we’re always in competition with one another. I can’t speak for men, as I am not a man, but there does seem to be a tendency to compare ourselves to other women. I remember being much younger and immediately taking a dislike to any girl I thought was smarter, prettier, or more popular than me. I quickly came up with reasons to justify my dislike of her: she dressed like a tart (hello slut shaming!), she was stuck up, she was arrogant, etc. I basically reduced her to things that I now know are nothing but toxic garbage. I think it’s okay to be insecure at times but it is important to learn to recognize that insecurity and see it for what it is. There will always be people who we perceived to be more accomplished than us in something. Instead of begrudging another woman her successes we should celebrate them! Instead of making their accomplishments about us, and how they make us feel inferior we should work on silencing that negativity that sucks the joy and genuineness out of our friendships.

Powerful, confident women are wonderful and instead of cutting them down in order to make ourselves feel better we should regard them as mirrors in which we can see our own awesomeness and potential. I know that it can be a struggle to see those closest to you moving onwards and upwards but instead of snarking about them behind their backs how about we practice being legitimately happy for other women? I have friends who are at different stages in their lives, some are stay-at-home parents, others are working parents, some are authors in addition to the previous two, some are lawyers, teachers, PhD candidates, etc. They are all amazing in their own right and every time they achieve something I am genuinely happy for them and it feels great to be happy for my friends. To celebrate them and their lives instead of measuring up how their lives stack up to mine is one of the most positive things I can do.

What do you do when you meet somebody you find intimidating? Imagine they’re well put together, oozing confidence and poise. Do you recoil from them, thinking that you’re not good enough to befriend them? Do you immediately hate them, assuming the worst of them? Or do you simply see a shine that mirrors your own? We should all strive for the latter.

I recently interviewed and went on to secure a seasonal job at a nearby retailer. It’s a part-time thing I’ll be doing twice a week and I’m excited about it. When I told some of my friends I saw a wonderful example of shine theory. They were SO happy for me! They were as excited as I was for this new job. I cannot describe how wonderful it feels to have people legitimately share in your joy. I am at a point in my life where I WANT to see my fellow women succeed. I want them to reach that highest peak, get that doctorate degree, build that multi-million dollar dream house, all without any ill feelings. When you stop making other people’s lives about you, you become happier.

Something else I think ties into Shine Theory is perception. How we perceive ourselves and others is not necessarily reality. The person you think of as most confident might actually feel like they’re falling apart on the inside. The woman whose figure you envy might struggle with body confidence and even admire your own figure. The point is that we are all worthy and we are all good. Life is not meant to be lived in one way.

To me, Shine Theory is about uplifting all women starting with ourselves. Self-hate is real and I see it too often in women and girls. The worst part is that we take this internalized hate and project it outwards. I recently read a blog post that was talking about being thankful for girlfriends. It was a lovely post with good intent but it left me feeling bit off. The author mentioned that she doesn’t like drama but that a lack of drama is hard to find in women because women like to talk. This was such a backhanded jab at women and it really bugged me. Putting down other women in order to lift up your friends is the wrong way of cerebrating anything. Women being gossipy and drama-prone is such a tired stereotype. If it was an attempt at humor by the author it fell flat (for me). The idea that women make shitty friends because they are drama queens might be supported by anecdotes but in reality any human being is capable of pettiness. To be honest I once shared that perception about women but I have since learned that it starts with me. My attitudes, my beliefs about my fellow women greatly impact the interactions I have with them.

Shine theory resonated with me because it’s something I was already doing in my life and it took a conscious effort to make the switch from insecurity and jealousy to unwavering support and genuine enthusiasm for the accomplishments of other women. In a way it’s one of those fake it til you make it type of things because breaking years of bad habits is difficult and silencing the snarky thoughts you once voiced about women you resented instead of admired is difficult but it’s worth the effort. Even somebody you might not get along with should be celebrated for their achievements and perhaps this is not a person you would personally congratulate but you can silence the unkind words you would have expressed before. I don’t have to like you but I won’t put you down either.

As Jam Wilson said in her interview, “Shine Theory is all about supporting, uplifting, complimenting, and encouraging women who are just doing great. Whether that means she looks great today or she’s doing really well career wise, Shine Theory is celebrating other women for their achievements without jealousy or ulterior motives. I just want to celebrate women in any way I can!”

I don’t mean to end on a sour note but I figured that I would also add my opinion on disliking other women. It’s okay to not jive with everyone you meet. Shine Theory does not mean you have to be kind and friendly towards all women just because but I think it’s about being more intentional and mindful of what we put out there and why. We are all capable of differentiating between toxic pettiness and legitimate gripes we might have with an individual 😉

Lastly, I wanted to give a shoutout to my fellow book loving friend, Sarah who just launched her book rec blog Between Two Books. I am thrilled for her as she had been talking about doing this for a while. Please check her out if you’re looking for book recs. She has a reputation for picking winners 😀

I hope you’re all having a wonderful week. Remember to shine.

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I need to talk about harassment

When I started this post I was sure about what I wanted to write and how I was going to write it but the more I thought about it the more discouraged I became. I realize when you take on a subject such a harassment you are guaranteed to alienate some people. Men, those who are even remotely interested in reading about harassment beyond refuting the accusations and declaring “not ALL men!”, might feel attacked and women might just not agree with your position. After all, you don’t have to be male to uphold male privilege. Regardless, those readers who are here in good faith will hopefully read with the intent of listening instead of responding.

Social media can be filled with land mines. Some people never encounter any of them. I have been on IG for years and this is the first time I have been harassed but I know that it happens daily to women everywhere. We might not see it, or hear about it but it’s happening.  It’s a problem. I have been called names on Twitter, from bitch to an ableist slur. I had one guy tag his response to me with the gamer gate hashtag in the hopes that they would come after me. How is that anything other than violence? I reached out to someone who told me about blockbot and I now have all known gamer gate accounts blocked just in case. If you’re wondering what my offense was to incur this, you are likely part of the problem. What these men do is search keywords and hashtags on Twitter in order to harass women, threaten women, dox women. If you ever come across any such account you will see their TL is nothing but the same spam message copied and pasted to different women.

I’ve been on IG for a couple of years and I enjoy sharing photos, especially of food. It’s a fun community and because I like browsing and sharing to hashtags and the like I have never locked my account. Last Saturday I participated in Dewey’s 24hr Read-a-thon and as part of the event I posted several reading related pictures to my IG including this one:

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Six days after I posted said photograph I received various IG notifications from the same account. They liked a few of my pics, left a comment on this one, and followed me. I was not inviting men to look at my legs. I was not looking for their gaze. But of course this is lost on this guy. Initially, I decided to accept the compliment and be done with it. Not surprisingly he took that as an invitation to take things further (because complimenting a woman is a social transaction that requires payment in the form of attention paid to the man that bequeathed such a gift) and asked if we could “have a nice talk”.  I ignored him.

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Moments later I received a private message from him. I honestly don’t know why IG even has this feature but nevertheless he thought it appropriate to send me a photo of his naked torso.

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Notice how he downplays his actions. It’s nothing, just a picture. NO! It’s NEVER “just a picture” when it’s unsolicited. This is exactly the kind of behavior I am referencing whenever I speak about male privilege. He decided that he had the right to send me this uninvited.

I had clearly stated that I was not interested but again, unsurprisingly, he did not let up.

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I blocked him after this exchange and I set my profile to private because it’s not uncommon for this kind of person to create another profile just to continue where they left off. One of the reasons this exchange disturbed me is because it makes me wonder how he would behave with a woman to whom he had physical access to. No means no wherever we are. Online communication is not exempt from the rules of consent. What I experienced is not an isolated incident. Women experience this and much worse every day. That is why I deem it of extreme importance to get conversations going about this. I refuse to be silent.

Harassment is part of the female experience. When I was in sixth grade a new student joined our class. He pulled my hair, hit me, and stole my pencils. When I finally complained to the teachers she told me that he just liked me. She invalidated my feelings and excused his behavior. I remember feeling confused and let down. I went on to “date” this boy. He forced himself on me and put his tongue in my mouth. When I struggled and pushed him away he was upset. I overheard him and his friends refer to me as a bitch for not reciprocating. I felt sick and not long afterwards I broke up with him.

At a Guy Fawkes bonfire I had a guy walk up behind me and pinch my butt. I didn’t know him and he didn’t know me but he felt confident and comfortable approaching me like that. His friends laughed in the background. They didn’t touch me but are they any better than the guy that did? It’s too often that we sit in silence because we feel that it’s not our problem, it’s not happening to us.

In the backseat of a car while riding with two of my cousins I fell asleep. I woke up to my male cousin with his hand up my shirt groping me. I kept quiet. He realized I had awoken and removed his hand. Until recently I had never told my mom about the incident. A part of me felt I had been responsible. So well does society socialize women to take responsibility for the actions of men.

Dressing modestly never helped me avoid the situations I am sharing here. The fact is that only harassers, attackers, rapists etc. are responsible for their actions. There is always this habit to ask what did you do to invite this? The answer is always nothing. Nothing.

This post was difficult to write. More so than I thought it would be. Not so much because of what I am sharing about myself and my experiences but because a part of me is always worried about what other people will think of me and my opinions. I am working to overcome that. If you’ve read this far thank you.

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No- the magic word

No: the magic word

Recently, I was talking to a friend who mentioned receiving a request on social media that she did not want to accept but felt she was being rude if she didn’t. I immediately told her that she’s entitled to her privacy and that self-care includes the word no and is never rude. Ever. I remember growing up being taught to always be polite, especially to adults. How often does this reverence for adults and politeness in general lands us in situations that we are not comfortable with? As a woman I know that men are often lechers, I experienced no shortage of this growing up. Children are especially vulnerable to the power dynamics that exist between younger  persons and older ones.

How can we protect our children? I think that we empower them when we teach them to use the word no. Teach them to say it often and loudly. Teach them that we don’t owe people our discomfort in order to avoid theirs. Children need to know that their parent’s stand behind them and that they won’t be reprimanded for standing up for themselves.

I mentioned earlier that I was taught to be polite, being rude was not tolerated by my parents, but saying no was. I remember when I was in the sixth grade waiting for my mom to pick me up from school and she was unusually late. Normally, she was waiting for us, we never waited for her. I knew we had plans to go to lunch at a friend’s house so it wasn’t completely weird for my friend’s dad to approach me and tell me that he had been instructed to pick my brother and I up from school. Even though I knew this man, knew I was meant to go to his house that afternoon I declined. I told him that if my mom had made alternate arrangements for my transportation after school she would always tell me beforehand. I refused to get into his car. Finally, we went to the school office where I called my mom and she apologized for worrying me, I was indeed supposed to ride with my friend and her dad. All of the adults were very impressed with me for sticking to my guns. Even though they were giving me credit, the real credit should go to my parents who had me feeling so sure of myself and them that I went head to head with an adult and won.

I often hear a lot of negative talk around using the word no with toddlers and kids. Redirect, use positive words, I’m sure we’ve all see this parenting philosophy. In many cases it makes sense to tell a child what you’d rather they do than yelling “No!”. I think that overusing the word no causes it to lose its effectiveness. Also, one of the reasons toddlers say no so much is because they hear it so often.

Bottom line: teaching our kids to say no and use it appropriately is important. It’s also important for them to get told no on occasion. Life doesn’t give you what you want all the time.

How do you feel about saying no?